Stefan Grabiński has been called a ‘Polish Poe’. Of course, he is not as good, which is why we call him a Polish Poe, rather than calling Poe an ‘American Grabiński’. This comparison might be a little unfair, because what they only have in common is that they wrote spooky, atmospheric tales. Also, there is a lot more sex in Grabiński’s stories. And it never ends well.
This edition includes an extended biography note on Grabiński and one fact that caught my attention was that Grabiński’s wife left him taking both their children, changed her name and was never to be heard from again. In 1920s the offence must’ve been of amazing proportions for a woman to do something like that. It makes me think that maybe Grabiński didn’t just write creepy stories. Maybe he was a creeper as well.
This is a short collection as it includes only six stories out of the author’s vast repertoire. Nonetheless, the themes, or should we call them obsessions, appear there clearly. One of his fixed ideas is the remnants of things past still echoing through the present. A couple of his stories feature characters who are bent on bringing the past back by reliving the memories and making them materialize. One of the author’s favourite locations seems to be a disused train line and an abandoned train station. It has exactly the romantic/nostalgic feel to it with a slightly sinister edge.
The story I enjoyed most was ‘The Black Hamlet’. It could be because I read it aloud to someone late at night and it really came to life for me. I actually had a dream today in which I wasn’t sure whether it was a dream or not because everything looked like a living room where I knew I fell asleep a few minutes before and I kept shouting quotes from “The Black Hamlet”:
“What is a dream? What’s being awake? What is reality… Tell me! Have mercy on my torment and tell me! Speak, free me from the terrible doubt!”
In this dream I kept waking up on this sofa and kept falling asleep again on it. Whenever I felt I was slipping into another dream within a dream I kept shouting ‘no, no, no’. I just wanted to wake up for real. Which of course eventually happened. I think, but maybe we’re still in my dream.
Anyway, one last piece of advice from Grabiński: never trust a beautiful woman who puts out on the first night. Or you’ll die.
PS. Initially I gave this book 3 stars but now that I'm actually fucking quoting it in my dreams, I think it deserves four.